CAIRO: Member of parliament Saad El-Gamal has rejected Israel s claim that the arrest of an alleged Egyptian spy was merely an attempt to divert attention from domestic problems.
El-Gamal, head of the Arab Affairs Committee at the Peoples Assembly, was referring to the recent case of Egyptian-Canadian Mohammed Essam Ghoneim El-Attar, who was charged with spying for Israel.
He countered that it was Israel that was avoiding the core issue of Mossad espionage on Egyptians. Why would we create issues to hide others? This kind of talk is an attempt to distract from the original case, which is that of a Mossad agent being caught spying for Israel.
He added: Israeli intelligence is always wary of Egypt because we are perceived as a huge human resource. So they will always try to glean information about our people, irrespective of any peace accords and moves towards normalization.
The Egyptian High State Security Prosecutor Hisham Badawi said that El-Attar was arrested at the airport as he was returning to Egypt from Canada on Feb. 1 and charged with being an Israeli operative.
He is set to stand trial at a High State Security Emergency Court. According to Badawi, El-Attar had been under investigation since 2002.
Al-Masry Al-Youm daily claimed on its front page Tuesday that El-Attar s role was to spy on the Egyptian Coptic Christian community abroad and was asked by the Mossad to try to recruit some of them.
The newspaper claimed he had taken a Christian name (Joseph) and pretended to be a Coptic immigrant.
Badawi said El-Attar was recruited to spy on Egyptians and Arabs in both Turkey and Canada. Through his job at a bank, which he got with the help of Israeli agents, he was privy to confidential financial information.
Badawi also alleged that El-Attar was paid $56,000 between August 2001 and Feb. 1 when he was arrested. El-Gamal stressed that Egypt was more concerned with its national security than with the effect of this incident on relations between Egypt and Israel.
The court will make the final judgment on what happened.
Nabil Farouk, a veteran researcher in intelligence and espionage told The Daily Star Egypt that El-Attar was a low level agent.
He was discovered and tracked in Canada by Egyptian intelligence because of his irrational behavior with Egyptian expatriates there.